CZ Talk:Topic Choice

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Encyclopedia topics

This currently reads

Topics should be plausible as encyclopedia article topics.  This excludes, 
for example, topics expressing personal opinions (e.g., "Why I think
God does not exist"), or highly complicated topics that
reflect original research (e.g., "Fruit production in France,
Turkmenistan, and Australia").
I just noticed this and fear that most of my contributions fall into the latter category (in fact, I mainly use CZ to reflect on original research, and I do not see how experts could be drawn in here if that is "excluded"). I would prefer the second part to read more like
but articles that reflect original research (e.g., "Fruit production
in France, Turkmenistan, and Australia")
are allowed as long as all the information they contain
has been peer reviewed.

I am tempted to rephrase this right away but since it's policy, I would like to read others' opinions first. --Daniel Mietchen 09:38, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

When I look at what is going on here at CZ, I wonder if this does not constitute itself peer review. We are a body of experts; we rigorously debate and revise content; we approved content. That sounds like peer review. If our content is peer reviewed by outside authorities or if we were to accept only outside reviewed knowledge, does that not undermine our claims to being experts? I can not think of one scholarly journal that requires outside peer review for publication. So, I'll revise your suggestion:
but articles that reflect original research (e.g., "Fruit production
in France, Turkmenistan, and Australia")
are allowed as long as all the information they contain
has been peer reviewed by the CZ community.

Russell D. Jones 15:38, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. "Complex articles" can still be neutral, but give a perspective that the detailed articles will not. A Related Articles page, for that matter, is a means of giving perspective. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:21, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Well, insofar as there is an objection to the original research policy lurking here, I wanted to point out that it hasn't been hammered out yet. But I would be willing to argue at length why we should not allow people to publish original research here (if you are interested, see my essay on CZ talk:Original Research Policy), under some notion of "original research," i.e., there is some text that we ought to remove simply because it constitutes research that should have appeared in a journal first, reviewed by the relevant experts. The main reason for this is precisely that we are not set up as experts-only or as a peer reviewing organization. You can argue all you like that we have elements of peer review (see this old article), but that doesn't imply that those elements really can adequately replace real peer review. To draw that conclusion, we need some more, solid argumentation, and to face some serious objections.

Insofar as the objection is only to this rule's restriction on "highly complicated topics," the idea is that there are in principle limitless numbers of ad hoc topics that are ultimately just concatenation of better-known topics. Pick any three philosophers at random, and you could probably interestingly compare their ethical theories. Journals publish articles like that all the time, but that doesn't mean we should countenance such ad hoc topics here. I'm hoping this makes sense, but perhaps it doesn't...

I'd be happy to look over any article that anyone wants to submit for examination as unduly "original research" or "concatenated," or both... --Larry Sanger 18:04, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

I'd rephrase; It certainly doesn't make a good rule, I don't see how it would be possible to reduce it to objective criteria - what's highly complicated to one is not to another. And I suspect that an article on Fruit production in France, Turkmenistan, and Australia" would be fascinating; I'm almost temted to have a go. I think a good rule might be lets get rid of rules we don't need or use. Gareth Leng 18:39, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
The point is that we need do a rule against completely ad hoc topics, precisely because the number of such topics is limitless. I guess, however, that my main argument against them is they are not maintainable; we might move the text to CZ:Maintainability...which might make the rule clearer and more defensible. --Larry Sanger 18:46, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
Yikes! I see this as one area where CZ could really develop its own unique personality. We have area experts who should be able to separate the grain from the chaff. Plus we have a bar between "Draft articles" and "Approved Articles." So, yeah, so what if we get an article on "Fruit production in France, Turkmenistan, and Australia," it's just taking up electrons. But once it has been reviewed and approved, CZ has added to the wealth of culinary knowledge. And see my little addition below about "the revolution." Russell D. Jones 00:42, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
I notice that the page doesn't actually say "no original research" anywhere. That is probably a good thing.
  • It does say no personal opinions. This is close to what Russell brought up on his talk page, namely his "original take" on Henry Adams. There is a subtle but important difference, though. An author must by necessity rely on his "personal take" on a subject or he would never write a word. Saying that Henry Adams had an affair with a goat because somebody's grandfather said so is a very different matter.
  • In terms of "highly complicated" or concatenated topics, I have method that I like to use. I try to make my topic into a singular noun (no noun phrases). "Dog" instead of "Dogs" or "Dogs of the Australian outback". Sometimes, one must resort to using a verb (rowing), but verb phrases (rowing in Cape Cod) are to be avoided. Avoid articles, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.
--Joe Quick 18:51, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
(aside) My take on Henry Adams got in the way with others' take on Henry Adams which turned him into a raving anti-semite. And I would also add that Howard has been developing a rather interesting "take" on "the wars of vietnam." Russell D. Jones 00:42, 4 February 2009 (UTC)
Just noticed that "articles that reflect original research" is ambiguous. I used reflect more in a sense of review, sum up, while some of you seem to read this as contain. Yet another reason for rephrasing, I guess. --Daniel Mietchen 04:00, 1 February 2009 (UTC)
Part of my pushing the argument here is also pushing the whole web 2.0 knowledge horizon. I agree with what Larry has said in other venues, that we are in a revolution comparable to the print, writing, or language revolutions. Sure, CZ started out as the second-generation WP; but it has the potential to be so much more as a knowledge-generating community. I say we shouldn't limit ourselves to "an encyclopedia" but we should drive this technology and knowledge-building community to see where it takes us. Russell D. Jones 00:42, 4 February 2009 (UTC)